To Know and To Feel


Lake Michigan, Kenosha Wisconsin, before the storm

“One stormy autumn night when my nephew Roger was about twenty months old I wrapped him in a blanket and carried him down to the beach in the rainy darkness. Out there, just at the eve of where-we-couldn’t-see, big waves were thundering in, dimly seen white shapes that boomed and shouted and threw great handfuls of froth at us. Together we laughter for pure joy—he a baby meeting for the first time the wild tumult of Oceanus, I with the salt of half a lifetime of sea love in me. But I think we felt the same spine-tingling response to the vast, roaring ocean and the wild night around us.

A night or two later the story had blown itself out and I took Roger again to the beach, this time to carry him along the water’s edge, piercing the darkness with the yellow cone of our flashlight. Although there was no rain the night was again noisy with breaking waves and the insistent wind. It was clearly a time and place where great and elemental things prevailed.”

All excerpts From Rachel Carson’s (author of Silent Spring) essay Help Your Child to Wonder, 1956. All photographs mine.

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, sunset

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, sunset

“Our adventure on this particular night had to do with life, for we were searching for ghost crabs, those sand-colored, fleet-legged beings which Roger had sometimes glimpsed briefly on the beaches in daytime. But the crabs are chiefly nocturnal, and when not roaming the night beaches they dig little pits near the surf line where they hide, seemingly watching and waiting for what the sea may bring them. For me the sight of these small living creatures, solitary and fragile against the brute force of the sea, had moving philosophic overtones, and I do not pretend that Roger and I reacted with similar emotions. But it was good to see his infant acceptance of a world of elemental things, fearing neither the song of the wind nor the darkness nor the roaring surf, entering with baby excitement into the search for a “ghos”.

It was hardly a conventional way to entertain one so young, I suppose, but now, with Roger a little past his fourth birthday, we are continuing that sharing of adventures in the world of nature that we began in his babyhood, and I think the results are good. The sharing includes nature in story as well as calm, by night as well as day, and is based on having fun together rather than on teaching.”

Lake Michigan, Wisconsin

Lake Michigan, Wisconsin

“…A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement. It is our misfortune that for most of us that clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring, is dimmed and even lost before we reach adulthood. If I had influence with the good fairy who is supposed to preside over the christening of all children I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life, as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from the sources of our strength.”

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

Lake Geneva, Wisconsin

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder without any such gift from the fairies, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering with him the joy, excitement, and mystery of the world we live in. Parents often have a sense of inadequacy when confronted won the one hand with the eager, sensitive mind of a child and on the other with a world of complex physical nature, inhabited by a life so various and unfamiliar that it seems hopeless to reduce it to order and knowledge. In a mood of self-defeat, they exclaim, “How can I possibly teach my child about nature—why, I don’t even know one bird from another!””


The Joy

“I sincerely believe that for the child, and for the parent seeking to guide him, it is not half so important to know as to feel. If facts are the seeds that later produce knowledge and wisdom, then the emotions and the impressions of the senses are the fertile soil in which the seeds must grow. The years of early childhood are the time to prepare the soil. Once the emotions have been aroused—a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and the unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love—then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning. It is more important to pave the way for the child to want to know than to put him on a diet of facts he is not ready to assimilate.” ”

From Rachel Carson’s (author of Silent Spring) essay Help Your Child to Wonder, 1956.

Lake Michigan, Before the storm

Lake Michigan, Before the storm



About BeeHappee

Where have all the bees gone? Where have all the flowers gone?
This entry was posted in Homeschooling, Nature, Photography, Unschooling and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink.

16 Responses to To Know and To Feel

  1. Too many adults lose that magnificent sense of profound wonderment.
    Tell them to never grow up! 🙂

  2. noblethemes says:

    Enchantingly beautiful, this arouses once again my own sense of wonder and amazement of the world in which we live. Thank you for sharing this!

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you! We were walking in the woods last night, and kids manage to find all kinds of critters, every single spider, and cricket.. They spot things long before I do. Our car trunk is filled with all kinds of stuff, various sticks and rocks, fluffy seeds and huge muscle shells. Sometimes I try to balance a gallon of milk somewhere in there without crushing their nature treasures. 🙂

  3. blazeburgess says:

    I didn’t know Rachel Carlson had written anything else, or that her work could be so passionate and reflective. That’s a lovely find.
    Photos are wonderful, as always. My favorite is the two looking out on Lake Michigan. Whatever was captured in that moment speaks to me.

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you very much. Yes, apparently Carson wrote an essay on Children and Education and planned to do a book, but Silent Spring and then untimely death got in the way, so it never materialized.
      We were on a beach and suddenly a swift storm started moving from the west, sky turned half black, and there were tornado sirens. Just before we left to take shelter from tornado, we climbed the rocks and looked at the quickly changing skies.

  4. Amina Berg says:

    I’ve nominated you for the “blogger recognition award” at

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you very much! I really appreciate your thoughtfulness. I do not really follow the recognition rules and all that, but I do very much appreciate your acknowledgement.

  5. noblethemes says:

    Hello! I see that Amina beat me to the punch, but I’ve also nominated you for the “Blogger Recognition Award.” Really and truly, thank you for your gifted writings, for sharing such wonderful stories with so many of us. Blessings!

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you very much for your nice words, they are very inspirational. 🙂 As we move through busy and active summer, I do not have much time to write, but hopefully it will come back one day.
      I do not follow the rules of nominations really, so I will be the chain breaker. 🙂
      But I do follow many absolutely wonderful blogs, a very varied mixture of poetry, photography, wonderfully written stories and research, politics, farming, survival skills, foraging, movie reviews, travel, unschooling/homeschooling, etc. I am very grateful for all the connections, inspiration, and information exchange that blogs have allowed.

  6. Bill says:

    I only know Rachel Carson through Silent Spring. She’s a hero in our household. Beautiful messages and photos here. Thanks for sharing this.

    • BeeHappee says:

      Thank you, Bill. Yes, she is best known for her blockbuster Silent Spring, but it was not the biggest portion of her nature writing. I hope you are staying cool, we have some heat blowing this way as well now.

  7. barnraised says:

    I love that last line about paving the way for them to want to know…that is my view of schooling to.

  8. shoreacres says:

    This is an absolute treasure. I didn’t know about this piece, and I’m going to try and find a way to put it to use myself.

    The reciprocal relationship between “knowledge” and “experience” seems to me to lie at the heart of all useful educational theory. And providing any of us with the sheer joy of learning is one of the best ways to build self-esteem there is. A blogger I follow offered a mathematical challenge last week. It took three runs at it, and a hint, but in the end — I solved it! After decades of living with the self-story called “I Can’t Understand Math,” I’m beginning to understand it — and my self-understanding changes as a result.

    I’m so glad you posted this. It’s in my files already!

    • BeeHappee says:

      I am glad you found it valuable, Linda. Neat about your math. I think math is presented very wrong way to far too young audiences, and thus people convince themselves they do not get it and never will. I have a ton of things in addition to math that I did not understand back when, ‘when I was supposed to get it’ – and now it makes much more sense. Now that education system is really flipped so badly upside down, we cram a bunch of meaningless theory into kids heads for the first 25 years, and then say: now go and live. And they stumble the next 25 years trying to apply that theory, if they can recall any, to practice. It would make more sense to reverse the situation, while you are young, you are a doer, when you are old and wise, you are a philosopher.

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